Category Archives: Review

Phish 3D Review

I just got back from the theatre where I saw Phish 3D. Rather than wait until I lose my thoughts, I figured now would be a great time to write the review having just discussed what I liked and disliked about it with Susan, who reluctantly went with me.

For those of you who don’t know, Phish 3D is a 3D movie that was filmed at Festival 8 in Indio, CA. The three day festival was held over Halloween weekend and included eight sets of music. On Halloween night, the band played the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street in its entirety. And on the final day, they played a full acoustic set.

To make this easy, I’ll use bullet points with explanations of what I liked and didn’t like, along with a letter grade.

  • Song selection (B-): There were some good point and some bad points, but overall it was decent. I think they should have shown more from the Exile set. After all, that was the focal point of the festival. Only choosing four songs from that set was a little weak, though the song selections were good. I would have liked to hear more of the “raunchy” songs. I would have liked to have seen more from the acoustic set, though I thought the song selections from that set were just fine. It would have been nice to see McGrupp and hear Trey tell everyone to sit down on the nice soft grass. Finally, the songs from the other sets could have been better. My biggest complaint is that they didn’t show Party Time. The song kicked off the first set of the festival and set the tone for the whole weekend. It was a big party. I would have liked to have seen Fluffhead and You Enjoy Myself. Both songs were high points with fun from the fire towers in the back of the concert field. The only easy going songs they showed were from the acoustic set. It would have been nice to see Joy or When the Circus Comes.
  • Song order (C): I don’t know why they couldn’t play the songs in the order that they were played at the festival, starting with the first night and ending with the last. I know it worked out best showing a set opener first, but, again, why wasn’t the first song Party Time? Instead, they started with songs from the last night. They showed the acoustic set before the Halloween set. I imagine that was to put some of the higher points of the movie towards the end, but that goes into the whole song selection. They could have picked more upbeat rockers from the acoustic set.
  • Views (C+): While I really liked seeing the stage, I would have liked to have seen more of the audience, especially on Halloween night. Part of what would have made this movie great would have been seeing glowsticks and balloons flying at your head, just like you’re there. It would have been nice to see more views out from the stage as well. They also showed way too much of Trey and Mike finger work on their guitars during the acoustic set. Why this set in particular you ask? Because they were sitting down with their legs spread and the guitars resting on their thighs. What am I getting at? Crotch shots. There were WAY too many of them. One of the parts I really enjoyed seeing was Fishman playing the drums. He’s the one guy who is hard to see from the audience because he’s surrounded by tall equipment and he’s not a really tall guy. It was fun watching him get into it. The last thing that I have a complaint about is the lights. The lights are one of the best things about a Phish show. I don’t know if it was the editing or the cameras, but the lights didn’t really come through in many of the shots. I was really hoping to see some 3D lights. It also would have been nice to have a camera way in the back to film the whole field of people and the speaker/light towers near the back of the audience. Those are a bit part of the festival experience.
  • Picture quality (A-): The picture was clear as day. It was better than any of the DVD’s the band has released date. I was very impressed by it. However, for what they were trying to do, this would have been much better in IMAX 3D. I’m sure the movie crew didn’t have the money for IMAX cameras, but that would have really drawn you into it.
  • Sound quality (B+): The sound was excellent, though the bass could have been turned up a bit (no surprise there, that’s exactly how I feel about the soundboard copies of the show). I did feel that Page was a bit louder in the mix than usual, especially during the acoustic set.
  • Overall (B-): It was a good movie, but I didn’t feel drawn into it the whole time. The song selection, the order, and the shots were distracting at times.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll explain what I think could have made the movie better. Concert movies are tough. They either really draw you in or really don’t. The one other time I saw Phish in the theatre was for their show in Brooklyn that kicked off their “final” tour in 2004. The difference was that it was a live simulcast. People watching it in the theatre were just as excited as the people at the show. This time was different. It was just a film made at a concert. I think in this case it didn’t have to be 3D. While it was great to see the depth of the stage setup and all that up close, it wasn’t necessary, though, as I said, it would have worked if it was IMAX.

The best parts of the movie were the parts the audience and fans never get to see. I loved watching the band rehearse with the horns and backup singers. The movie needed more of that. I also loved watching the crowd come in for the acoustic set on Sunday morning. That part was fun because it added the excitement of the festival to the movie. What concert movies don’t usually do is give you that full experience of being there. That’s what this lacked.

This movie would have been better off as a documentary. It’s so difficult to make a concert movie out of a three day festival with eight sets of music. Which songs do you pick? What order do you show them? How much of the audience do you show? There needs to be a balance, but if you mess any of that up, it can make what could be a great movie into a mediocre movie. I had really high hopes for this, having been at the festival and dealing with the camera booms going up and down over the audience blocking our view. It would have been nice to have seen people coming in for the Halloween set. Other than the fact that the movie mentioned it was Halloween weekend, you couldn’t tell from watching. They should have setup an area near the entrance to the venue where they could have lights and a camera man filming people coming into the show in their costumes. That would have made the movie and given some people their 15 minutes of fame. The could have filmed people coming onto the site on the first day and setting up their campsites. There should have been more wandering around the campgrounds. There was so much at the festival, I feel this didn’t really capture it, even when it came to the music. Had they included more of this other stuff in the movie and cut out some of the music (they could have cut out AC/DC Bag, in my opinion) it would have really brought you into the festival and drawn you into the movie, like you were part of the experience. I guess if I had to summarize the movie in a word, it’d be flat (kinda funny considering it’s a 3D movie).

I’m not going to tell you if you should go see it or not. That’s up to you to decide. I did enjoy the movie. I don’t know if being there made me a bit jaded about the movie because it lacked that full experience. It really is a toss up. I’m inclined to suggest seeing it in the theatre for that full big screen experience and buy the DVD because I’m sure it will have special features with additional songs and hopefully some of that documentary type stuff I’m looking for.

Beer Wars Movie Review

I finally got around to watching Beer Wars tonight, thanks to Netflix and Tivo. I’m going to start off by saying that I’m very glad I didn’t pay whatever the outrageous price was to see it in a theatre. It wasn’t that good. I am glad I saw it, but I won’t be buying the DVD, regardless of what kinds of extra features there are.

The movie is narrated by Anat Baron, supposedly from the beer industry (she ran Mike’s Hard Lemonade). She seems pretty knowledgeable about the industry, at least from the perspective of an independent company (even if it is a malternative, or alcopop), but her narration feels like it is better placed in a movie for children. The production quality is pretty bad and the animation used is just plain silly and could have been left out. It just gives the whole movie a very simplistic, and not in a good way, and childish start and finish.

The basic premise of the movie is that the big three American brewing companies (of which there is now one as Miller and Coors merged and Anheuser-Busch is now owned by Brazilian/Belgian InBev) will do whatever it takes to keep their products on top. The advertising is explained from how they go about placing their products on store shelves to how much money they spend on television and print ads.

The movie explains how the three-tiered system works, but with such little detail that they could have kept that part out. The only thing explained is how big the distribution lobby is and how well they keep the outdated system, which is ultimately responsible for preventing consumers from being able to choose what they drink, in place. She breezed over it with such broad strokes, there wasn’t enough detail to explain why the system was put in place to begin with and why many consider it important still, and by that I mean people outside of the distribution lobby.

The movie follows Sam Calagione and Rhonda Kallman with great detail and Jim Koch with lesser detail. Sam is the founder of Dogfish Head, one of the largest craft breweries in the country. Rhonda used to work for Boston Brewing Co. with Jim Koch, the founder. She left and started Moonshot, a caffeinated beer. The best parts of the movie were seeing how Dogfish Head is run and how they fight to stay on top. Rhonda basically runs a beer marketing company. She isn’t a brewer and doesn’t run a brewery (the two beers she “makes” are contract brewed in PA). While I understand her inclusion in the movie for the advertising and marketing perspective, they could have gotten that from a real brewery that doesn’t make gimmick beers – her other beer, Edison, is a light beer. Sam explains how he prefers to keep growth small even though he has investors pushing him to go public. He wants to avoid that so he can concentrate on making great beer rather than keeping shareholders happy. It’s a real story of someone who went into great debt and took great risks to keep his business going strong in the face of big marketing money and legal attacks from the Big 3. Unfortunately, however, Anat chose to spend the most time following Rhonda, for whom I really had no sympathy. Perhaps it was because they both had been in the “beer” industry promoting alternatives to actual beer.

Had the movie followed real breweries who were faced not only with the challenge of running a brewery and all the issues surrounding that, but also the issue of marketing against the norm, it would have been a whole lot better and held a lot more weight. I would have liked to have heard more from Jim Koch and how he grew the Sam Adams brand to become the largest craft brewery in the country. I was a bit surprised he was just glanced over. The movie also briefly discussed Yuengling, the oldest brewery in the country, but failed to really get into details about how they lasted through prohibition to remain in operation.

It’s worth watching if you want a broad overview of the beer industry and what small breweries are up against. It’s not worth buying. The only reason I watched it was because Netflix had it. If I gave things a star rating, this one would have 2 stars out of 5.

Long Trail Pale Ale

I haven’t written a beer review in quite some time. That’s not because I haven’t been drinking great beers, but rather because I tend not to think of it or the beers just weren’t worth writing about (or they’re stuff I drink all the time). I’m also drinking less as part of my weight loss program. Well, Thursday night was a Long Trail tasting at Nikki’s Liquors. In fact, it’s Long Trail Month at Nikki’s with all Long Trail beers on sale all month long. Six packs are only $6.99 and the bombers of the Brewmaster’s Series are $1 off. It’s totally worth it.

Long Trail is one of my favorite breweries. It’s a very underrated brewery in my not-so-humble opinion. They make two Altbiers, which is two more than most breweries make. I love German ales, which tend to be lesser known styles. That gives Long Trail extra points in my book. Anyway, talking about Long Trail isn’t the point of this. They recently released a new year ’round beer – Pale Ale. I’ve had everything they’ve released and they’re all solid beers, though the Belgian White and the Blackberry Wheat leave a bit to be desired. They dropped their spring seasonal, the Hefeweizen, from their repertoire and added the Pale Ale. I love their IPA, which is made in a traditional English style. It’s well balanced and more malty than most American IPA’s. It’s a great IPA, though most hopheads turn their heads because it’s not in-you-face hops. It’s not meant to be. Well, hopheads can rejoice. Long Trail’s Pale Ale is, oddly enough, hoppier than their IPA, at least in flavor.

The beer pours a crystal clear light amber color with a nice one finger head. It has an immediate and lasting aroma of Cascade hops – a nice citrus scent. As you drink the beer, it leaves a nice lacing down the side of the glass. Upon first sip, I get the immediate flavor of those hops – a grapefruit flavor. It has a nice crisp, clean flavor that lingers just enough to savor while not leaving a long-lasting aftertaste. It’s quite refreshing. It was hard to let this one warm up too much, but as it did, I got a bit more of the malt balance. This is more definitely an American Pale Ale. While it’s not punch-you-in-the-face hops, it’s all about the hops. As I finish it, I am left wanting another.

The easiest way for me to describe this beer is through its similarity to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It is a very similar beer, but quite different in many ways. The flavor profile is almost the same, but where they differ is in the body. This one is a little lighter, but in a good way. Where SNPA is heavier in all aspects of the beer, this one is crisp, clean, and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I love SNPA, but Long Trail Pale Ale definitely edges it out simply because I want more and more. The crispness and the lack of the lasting aftertaste make it that much better. While many call SNPA a “near-IPA”, this one falls perfectly in the APA category and sits tall there. Many beer lovers, especially hopheads, tend to dismiss the APA category. I mean why get an APA when you can get an IPA? Isn’t an APA just a light version of an IPA? It’s not, and Long Trail Pale Ale is a perfect example of why you would want an APA over an IPA.

The distributor said the beer falls at about 5.2% ABV. It’s a very easy drinking, but very satisfying beer. I bought a six pack. I already drank two of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of it don’t make it through the weekend. Do yourself a favor. Find this beer. Buy this beer. Drink this beer… especially if you’re in RI. The discount at Nikki’s is a great deal.

Disco Biscuits 2/19/2010

Last Friday, a couple of my invisible friends from Twitter (@UNOlker and @mountainlaura) came up to Providence for the Disco Biscuits show at Lupo’s. Having never seen Bisco, I decided I’d check it out, knowing the two of them love the band.

We got to Lupo’s during the opening act. The opening band was Indobox. They were decent. The people already there seemed to love it. There wasn’t much of a scene outside. The scene inside was far younger than I am used to. In fact, most of the crowd seemed barely 21. There were a few older folks and probably a lot of younger ones. It was a very different scene. Everyone seemed pretty spun for the most part, too.

Bisco came on sometime after 10. It might’ve been closer to 10:30. They played what seemed to be a very long first set. I’ll be honest, while they are pretty damn talented, I’m not sure it’s really for me. It was fun. It felt very much like a big dance party. The people there seemed like those you would see at a rave if raves still happened. I had a hard time following the different songs. They all seemed to flow into each other and, for the most part, ended up with that “UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ” sound at some point. This caused them to sound fairly similar. There was one song during the whole show that was slower and more mellow than the rest, but the show was extremely upbeat. As much as I like a good party, I think I can officially say that I’m getting too old for it. During the second set I headed upstairs to the balcony and hung out in back. It was nice to get away from the crazy dancing mobs for a bit, even if some chick thought I was someone else and started dancing with me. The encore was cool. They played “Cars” by Gary Numan (you know the song, look it up). I think that was my favorite part.

There were people puking in the bathroom, in garbage cans in the lobby, and I’m sure outside on the street. While in line at the coat check, some chick saw my Sunday River shirt and goes “Hey, I lost my virginity at Sunday River”. That pretty much summed up the whole experience for me.

I had fun hanging out with UNO and ML. The cabbie that took us back to my place was hilarious and a little wacked in the head, but it was fun. I’m not sure I’ll do it again, but there’s always the possibility. Maybe if it’s not on a Friday, I will. I had been awake from 6:30 am until 3:00 am that night. Needless to say, it was a long day.

Disco Bicuits 2-19-2010

Trey Anastasio 2-13-2010

On Saturday, I had gone to CT to see Trey and Classic TAB at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford. Because of a new hookup from my cousin, I had great seats, about 6 rows back. I had seen bands from that close before, but never a Phish-related band. The seats were great.

Upon arrival, there wasn’t a large lot scene that I could see. We had driven by around 6 to meet my cousin at a bar in downtown Wallingford and there was no one at the Oakdale yet. When we go back to the Oakdale around 7:15, the lot was pretty full, but there wasn’t a large scene. So we headed in.

We grabbed a beer and headed to our seats. The Oakdale is a pretty nice theatre, though it was the largest venue scheduled for Trey’s tour. It wasn’t a sold out show, but the vibe inside felt as if it had been sold out. The crowd was excited and Trey was visibly happy to be there. In fact, he had mentioned it was one of his favorite rooms. I could tell why. The sound in the room was perfect. We were low below the speakers and the sound was still excellent. This is a major contrast to the last time I saw TAB at Lupo’s. The sound there tends to be too loud, making it difficult to pick out the different instruments. The Oakdale had a nice warm sound to it.

He opened the show with “Alive Again” and it was clear the show was gonna be a good one. Everyone was playing at the top of their game. The next song was “Shine”. This is a song that I had previously only heard played by 70 Volt Parade. The song was horrible then. It was just way too much of a pop song. The horns added a nice element to it and made the song really sparkle (pun intended). After the new song “All that Almost Was”, he dedicated the next song to Natalie’s (the trombonist) great-grandmother who was in the audience, and they played “Mozambique”. You could tell the band was well rehearsed and didn’t just get on stage and wing it (which was how 70 Volt Parade always sounded). They followed that with my favorite TAB song, “Push On Til The day”. They really played this one strong and jammed it out a bit. Other highlights from the first set were “Sand”, “Alaska”, and “Liquid Time”, which really sounded great with the flute. I can’t wait for Phish to play this one. They closed the set with a song he said he was playing for his friend, Steve Pollack, aka the Dude of Life. He had written the song with Trey, but had never heard it performed. The song was “Show of Life”, which was another great song and could become a great Phish tune as well. It ended a long 90 minute set.

The second set opened with “Cayman Review”, followed by “Gotta Jibboo”. The band was nailing everything. They played “The Birdwatcher”, a barbershop tune from Phish’s Party Time album. They then went to “Love is Freedom” which segued to “Simple Twist-up Dave”, keeping up the energy. After calming things down a bit for “Flock of Words” and the nice groove of “Drifting”, they closed the set with “First Tube”. We knew we’d get a great encore. They came back and Trey explained how curfews worked and why there would sometimes be a three minute encore. He then said that wasn’t going to happen this night and it didn’t. The triple encore included “At the Gazebo”, “Valentine”, and “Dragonfly”.

Trey was visibly excited to be there throughout the whole show and didn’t seem to want the night to end. But, as with all good things, the night had come to an end. It was a very strong show and reminded me why I love Trey and TAB so much. This smaller incarnation of the band is really what he needs to stick with. Things started to get out of hand with the 10 piece band. It was almost too much going on to really get it. It’s also nice that he’s able to play the smaller venues. I had seen his bigger band at Great Woods during Phish’s hiatus. While it made sense that he played a venue that big, the music and the band really weren’t fit for such a large venue. For a band that’s full of just fun music, they need a smaller venue where they can be closer to the whole audience.

Unfortunately, the scene outside after the show was pretty bad. There were nitrous tanks and balloons everywhere. We made our way to the car and headed out.

Setlist 2-13-2010

Phish 11-28-09, Albany, NY

When Phish announced their Fall Tour, there was a severe lack of New England dates. In fact, there was only one – Portland, ME. However, they had six dates in scheduled in New York State – one in Syracuse, two in Albany, and three at MSG in NYC. I was upset about this decision on their part. They had off dates that coincided with off dates at other arenas they used to play on a regular basis, including the DCU Center (aka Worcester Centrum) in Worcester and the Dunk (aka Providence Civic Center) in Providence. A band based in New England did a whole tour centered around the Northeast, and they skipped pretty much all of New England.

November 28 was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Susan’s cousin was getting married that day with an early wedding. I begged and pleaded and got a ticket really cheap. Susan caved and allowed me to leave the wedding a little early, only by about 30-60 minutes. I headed up to Albany where I met up with the Twibe at TJ’s. I then headed over to the show and met up with the rest of the crew, including the best vendor on lot, UNO’s Wine Bar.

I went into the show and found my way to my seat, which was behind the stage, Fishman side. Because there were so few people behind the stage, I just hung out by the rail on the landing. There weren’t many security guards in the area and we were able to just hang out there and dance. It also had a better view than my seat. The band came on and opened with “Party Time”. It was a fitting start to what would be an incredible show full of bust-out worthy songs and some of the best jamming of the year. Highlights from the first set included the bust-out of “Uncle Pen” and “Vultures”, “Sanity”, “Walk Away”, and “Alaska”. During the set closer, “Backwards Down the Number Line”, I spotted Jessie from Twitter. She was sitting with Steve, also from Twitter. I sat with them for the rest of the show.

The band came back for the second set and opened with “Seven Below”. Entering into some of the best type 2 territory they’ve hit all year, they segued nicely into “Ghost”, which also stretched beyond the 20 minute mark. The double-whammy amounted to about 50 minutes of type 2 jamming, the most they played in all of 2009. It was a real rager for the beginning of the second set. They brought things back down to earth with a cover of “Cool It Down”. The rest of the set was very strong with a great “Gotta Jibboo” and a funked out “Wolfman’s Brother”. They closed with a strong “Julius” and encored with a crazy “You Enjoy Myself”.

Overall, it was a killer show and totally worth the long trip up to Albany. It made me look forward to 2010. I’m hoping for some shows closer to home. They¬† need to return to Providence and Worcester this year.

Setlist 11-28-2009

Max Creek – Thanksgiving Eve

The night before Thanksgiving, I went to Lupo’s in Providence to see everyone’s favorite local jamband, Max Creek. They have one of the strongest followings of any band, especially when it comes to smaller, local acts. They’re also known for putting on a great show, and rarely play what one would call a bad show. So the night before Thanksgiving had to be a great one.

Providence-based Fungus Amungus opened for them. The crowd was pretty small at this point, consisting of what seemed to be mainly friends of the band. They’re more of a funk style band with shorter jams. While a solid act in and of themselves, they seemed to be a bit more inexperienced (which could be because they’re quite a bit younger). I enjoyed what I heard from them, but it wasn’t anything overly special. The one song they really did well was Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”. I was quite impressed by that. Scott Murawski from Creek came out to join them on stage for a song or 2. He basically stood way off to the side and back of the stage, though. What could have been a great moment of collaboration, I think he held off on his talent and allowed Fungus to take the lead. In fact, I couldn’t really even hear his playing. I’ve seen him collaborate with others before and he’s done a great job playing off of them and vice versa, but in this case, he just stood there playing. My guess is that it’s because of the inexperience of the other group in their ability to really jam and improvise off someone else, likely who they’ve never really played with before.

Creek went on later. while the crowd grew in size, it still wasn’t a large crowd, and certainly not a sell out for Lupo’s. Now, I’m not one who is overly familiar with Creek’s catalog. I’ve seen them a few times, but that’s really it. So you’ll have to bear with my review.

They started out slow and seemed to have a hard time finding their groove. This lasted through much of the first set, though it did have its highlights (for me that was “Six Days on the Road” as the only song I knew/recognized). The second set saw things pick up quite a bit more. It started with a few covers, many of which I recognized. They ended the set with some originals, but since they had found their groove, they nailed it. You could tell as the night got later, they were having more fun, especially when midnight rolled around and it was officially Thanksgiving.

All-in-all, I had a great time. I decided after that show that I’m gonna try to never miss a Creek show in Providence as long as I can help it. They’re really worth seeing whenever you get the chance. I’ve had a blast at each one I’ve been to, and because they have such loyal fans, it’s like a big family (similar to Phish in many ways).

Setlist 11-25-2009

Great International Beer Festival 2009

I went to the GIBF this year for both sessions. While there seemed to be fewer booths at this one compared to the one last year (note: I did not go to the one in the spring), the quality of the breweries seemed to be a bit better. We had more smaller breweries present than in past years, though we also had some that weren’t present, most notably Smuttynose. I can’t help but wonder if their presence at Beervana had anything to do with them not coming to the GIBF. It’s probably a combination of that and the economy, considering the GIBF not only makes the breweries pay for a table but also donate the beer and their time. This is something that should not be done if you ever want to start a beer festival. Beervana, on the other hand, bought all the beer and simply requested that a brewer or brewery rep staff the tables. The breweries prefer this approach because they only have to donate their time. It also allows the festival organizers to hand pick the beers they are pouring at the festival.

Last year, I had only attended the afternoon session, which tends to be the quieter of the two sessions with more people who are really into the beer as opposed to people looking to pay $36 for an all you can drink party. I had heard some horror stories of the second session in the past. This time it seemed to be a bit more mellow. While there were a lot more people than the first session, and it was definitely crazier than the first session, there wasn’t a whole lot of screaming and chanting that I had expected. From an attendee’s standpoint, it seemed to go pretty smoothly, though they had a harder time forcing people out than we did at Beervana.

Some of my favorite brewery stops were Mayflower, Offshore, Gardner’s Ale House, Watch City Brewing, Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies, and Ithaca. They all had a great selection of beer. Even the other breweries brought some unexpected beers. Victory, for example, had Wild Devil, Golden Monkey, Baltic Thunder, and Hop Wallop (in addition to Prima Pils). I was surprised they brought so many of their bigger beers. I would have expected Prima Pils and Hop Devil. I was surprised to see that Mayflower signed up for this as well. They hadn’t been there in the past. They even brought some of their Thanksgiving Ale with them, which was quite excellent. Even Providence’s own Trinity Brewhouse had four different whiskey barrel aged beers. So even though Heineken, Corona, and Presidente were all present, the quality of beer from the other breweries was much better than last year. Dogfish Head, whom I had heard would not be coming, ended up having a table (though without their RI rep). It was expected that they would only have 60 Minute IPA and a seasonal. They actually had 90 Minute IPA, Chicory Stout, Raison d’Etre, and Indian Brown Ale. While these aren’t their top offerings, they aren’t the usual suspects either.

All in all, it was a good fest. The layout was better, spacing the rows out a bit more, allowing for easier movement around the floor. They put the stage in the far corner this time rather than at the end of one of the rows of booths. This kept it a bit quieter, though they probably should have lowered the volume of the band and raised the volume for the award ceremony. Aside from that, it was great. I still don’t think it’s worth my money for admission, but if you want a decent introduction to some craft beer available in southern New England, it’s a pretty good place to familiarize yourself with it.

Theobroma at 1 Year

The other night we visited with some friends. I brought over a couple bottles of beer to share with them. One of those was a bottle of Dogfish Head Theobroma from the first batch. The beer had originally been a bit drier with the chili pepper coming through a bit more in the back. The aged version had changed quite a bit. The heat from the pepper had subsided, though was still there just enough to give you a slight tingle. The beer had sweetened up quite a bit. I remember when we first tried it, someone suggested that it wouldn’t be a good one to age. I disagree. It was nice and malty with a hint of cocoa and that slight tingle from the pepper. If you have some bottles of this, I suggest aging one or 2 of them. It’s a great beer and I thought it was even better aged. Susan did not like it at all when it was fresh, but she loved it aged. Of course, she doesn’t like peppers or spicy things, which would explain that.

Phish Joy Review

The latest album from Phish, titled Joy, was released last Tuesday. Though it had been leaked to the internet and then posted for streaming from Phish’s MySpace page a few weeks prior, I had waited until the official release to listen to the album in full. Overall, I would say that as a studio album, this is one of the band’s strongest. Steve Lillywhite’s production is impeccable and each song stands on its own. The one complaint is that the album isn’t really cohesive. Considering it’s from Phish, I’m not overly upset by that. They most definitely aren’t known for their studio work. From the perspective of each individual song, it’s their strongest album, but as a whole, the last album Lillywhite produced for them, Billy Breathes, is better.

The album opens with “Backwards Down the Number Line” a song written from a poem Tom Marshall had sent to Trey. The song is probably the poppiest song on the album, but not in a bad way. It’s a well written song with great lyrics. Like most Phish songs, it’s better live than on the album, but it certainly doesn’t make me think of Trey’s Shine, an album known for being all catchy pop music and one of Trey’s worst musical works.

The second song on the album, “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan”, is a nice psychedelic rock song that really showcases the “new” Phish. The guitar riffs and lyrics are a bit darker and contrast nicely with the easy listening opening track.

Up next is a song Trey had written for his sister who recently passed away after a battle with cancer. The title track of the album is a beautiful uplifting ballad, slowing down the music for a bit.

The fourth track is a Mike song called “Sugar Shack”. This is a fun funky tune that brings visions of New Orleans (at least to me). It has a hint of a reggae beat. It’s a classic Mike tune that goes down as one of his best.

In the fifth spot is the laid back groove of “Ocelot”. This was a much anticipated song for me. It’s a great easy listening song with a catchy tune, but by no means poppy. The laid back grooves make this a perfect song for a lazy summer Sunday afternoon.

Following “Ocelot” is probably my least favorite song of the album, “Kill Devil Falls”, a straight up rocker. The song itself is pretty good, but it’s almost out of place on the album. The initial guitar riff makes me want the song to be a bit faster and harder rocking than it is. It could be a great 60’s surf rock song, but it’s just a tad too slow.

The next song, “Light”, has an intro that they can extend and practically turn into its own jam when they play it live. The song is one of the best songs on the album. It’s got a nice slow build from the ambient intro into a powerful tune, much in the same style as “Piper”, though the building intro isn’t as long. It’s a nice rocking song, similar to some of Trey’s later solo work from Bar 17 or 18 Steps.

“I Been Around” is a short bluesy Page song that provides a nice little interlude before the epic 13 minute composition of “Time Turns Elastic”. TTE has become known as a set killer when they play it live. While it may someday make a great closer for the first set of a show, only the ending of the song is really worth hearing live. It’s much better on the album than live. Though I did also buy the album Time Turns Elastic with the 30 minute classical composition written with Don Hart and loved it that way, the song just doesn’t pop coming from Phish. I think if they can really work out some better improv with it and sway from playing the exact composition for much of the song, it can be awesome live. Until then, it’s a long bathroom break.

Closing out the album is “Twenty Years Later”, which is a retrospective on life. It’s a slow rocker, again showing some of Trey’s newer writing similar to some of the stuff off Bar 17.

Overall, the album is one of their strongest, only beat out by Billy Breathes for both production and cohesiveness. While Rift is always a fan favorite, the production quality of this album is worlds away. I’d rank Phish’s studio albums something like this:

  1. Billy Breathes
  2. Joy
  3. Rift
  4. Story of the Ghost
  5. Picture of Nectar
  6. Junta
  7. Farmhouse
  8. Hoist
  9. Round Room
  10. Lawn Boy
  11. Undermind

We’ll see what happens when I receive my Joy box with the Party Time album included. I also didn’t include the Siket Disc or the White Tape in my list, though the White Tape would probably fall near the bottom and the Siket Disc is more ambient jamming than a real studio album.